Randy Evans's blog

Rural Iowa should brace for school ‘vouchers’

It won’t be long before empty parking spaces near the Iowa Capitol will be as hard to find as a compromise between Democrats and Republicans.

The Legislature returns to Des Moines on Jan. 9, more firmly in Republican control than it was on May 24, when this year’s session ended.

With their strong showing in the election this month, Republicans can be expected to pick up where they left off six months ago. For people living in rural Iowa, one issue of deep concern on Gov. Kim Reynolds’ to-do list is creation of taxpayer-financed vouchers to help parents pay for tuition to private K-12 schools.

Could another Mamie Till bring gun change?

Mamie Till came along at the right time in American history.

During the 1950s, in an era when many Americans were blind to the grotesque toll of racial hatred, this courageous Illinois mother stepped forward and opened America’s eyes.

What people saw outraged them — the mutilated body of her 14-year-old son, Emmett, lying in an open casket. His horribly disfigured face bore little resemblance to anything human. An ear was severed. An eye was missing. His teeth were gone. He had been wrapped with barbed wire, and his head was swollen like a deformed pumpkin.

Hey, politicians, are loan bailouts good or bad?

I try to stay atop the day’s news. But I must have dozed off last week — because I missed the response from Iowa Republican leaders to the Biden administration’s announcement of $1.3 billion in debt relief to 36,000 farmers who have fallen behind on their farm loan payments.

In making the announcement, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “Through no fault of their own, our nation’s farmers and ranchers have faced incredibly tough circumstances over the last few years. The funding included in today’s announcement helps keep our farmers farming and provides a fresh start for producers in challenging positions.”

I am not here to question the wisdom of the federal assistance. But the silence from Gov. Kim Reynolds and U.S. senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst is markedly different from their criticism after President Biden announced in August that the government would forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loans for most borrowers.

Secrecy isn’t how you build trust and respect

Middle ground is not something that often is seen nowadays in Iowa government or our politics.

These days, candidates, elected officials and community members often are seen as flawed if they speak in favor of the middle ground.

Case in point: Too many people have staked out extreme positions on one of the most important topics, law enforcement. They either take up the nonsensical “defund the police” rally cry, or they make the opposite, but equally flawed, demand to support police without regard for any shortcomings in officers’ actions or practices.

Those thoughts were bouncing around in my cranium last week when I read a new lawsuit that was filed against the city of Des Moines by local attorney, who in retirement has become a voice of reason in the fractious discussions over the actions by law officers in Iowa.

‘Why’ questions permeate 2 care center deaths

There was a news update over the weekend about two elderly Iowans who wandered away from different care centers last winter and froze to death.

There is no question the deaths were horrible tragedies. There is no question they resulted from carelessness and a needless lack of attention by employees of the centers.

There are important questions that need to be asked, though. Why was one death a regrettable accident but the other death was a crime? And why, if Iowa treats the one death as a crime, is the blame not shared by others who could have stepped in and prevented the death?

We all don’t benefit equally from government aid

President Joe Biden’s decision to cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loans for many borrowers is fair game for vigorous debate — and disagreement.

Americans have been debating and disagreeing for 246 years. What jumps out in this latest dispute is how some politicians are blind to the inconsistencies in their arguments against this economic shot in the arm when, through the years, they have supported other government incentives to various groups.

To hear the comments of Iowans in Washington, you might think they have long been strong advocates for government butting out of the personal financial decisions Americans make. But you would be wrong.

Suspicion is not enough in our system of justice

It is difficult for many of us to muster empathy for people accused of crimes who have complaints about the way police treated them.

This lack of empathy probably occurs because ordinary folks do not think they will be in situations like people accused of crimes.

If that includes you, allow me to introduce you to Anthony Watson, 43, of Coralville, and Jennifer Pritchard, also 43, of Fort Dodge.

Their experiences should be a wake-up call. We should ask government leaders, especially in Johnson and Hamilton counties, a bunch of “why” and “how” questions — questions about the events and decisions that led these two people to be jailed and their lives turned topsy-turvy.

Iowa court’s unfair message: ‘Take one for the team’

In 1972, Gordon Garrison purchased 300 acres of farmland in Emmet County, a rectangle near the Minnesota border one county to the east of the Iowa Great Lakes.

The Iowa State University agricultural engineering graduate began raising sheep and crops. He also set about working to restore the “prairie pothole” ecology of shallow wetlands that was common in northwestern Iowa when white settlers began arriving 175 years ago.

Garrison built a house on his land in 1999. He still lives there, although his quality of life has taken a troubling turn since he put down roots there.

Life for Garrison and his neighbors changed significantly in December 2015 when New Fashion Pork LLP built a CAFO, or a confined animal feeding operation, uphill from and adjacent to Garrison’s property. The confinement building — which the state allows to house 4,400 to 8,800 hogs, depending on their size — is about a half mile from Garrison’s property.

It’s wrong to tell parents what their kids can read

Here we are, well into year three of the effects and after-effects of Covid.

An oft-heard comment during this time has come from people who believe government should simply butt out. These people believe government should leave it to individuals, and parents, to decide what is best for themselves and their children.

“I trust Iowans to do the right thing,” Gov. Kim Reynolds has said multiple times.

But when other issues come up, there is evidence some of these same people want to impose their interpretation of what is right on other individuals and parents who may have different views from theirs of what is proper.

While we may not live in the communities where these new controversies are bubbling, we all should be troubled by these efforts just as much as if these efforts were occurring in our backyards.

One of these controversies is taking root in Baxter, a Jasper County town of 1,100 people. It is home to the Baxter Community School District, which had an enrollment of 475 students during the past academic year.

Our nation needs to focus on the greater good

Middle ground seems to have disappeared in the United States, and that’s unfortunate.

These days, there’s no appetite for the give-and-take that leads to compromise. Regardless of the side you are on, it’s pretty much “my way or the highway.”

Speaking of highways, in 1973, Congress and President Richard Nixon enacted a nationwide 55 mph speed limit in response to the oil embargo by Middle East petroleum producers.

Lead-footed Iowa drivers, frustrated after zooming along at 75 mph on Interstate highways, got nowhere with their objections the new speed limit interfered with their constitutionally articulated right to “secure the blessings of liberty” by driving faster.

A generation before, it was the same following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The federal government instituted a 35 mph “victory speed limit.” There were some who disregarded the new limit, of course, but most Americans willingly went along with the inconvenience — because they accepted assurances the lower speed limit was accomplishing a greater good for the American public.

Today, however, anyone making “the greater good” arguments about any limitations on guns is going to get a response similar to what occurs when you knock down a hornets’ nest.


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